My Students’ Blog

Family Mental Health

By Justus Stajdujar

Family is important. It does not matter if your family is biologically related to you or not. Families are made up of the people you love and care about unconditionally. Someday most of us will have families of our own. It will be our jobs to run the household and oversee everyone. What happens if a member of your family starts to struggle with depression? How do we communicate with them so they know we can help them, and let them know they can talk to us about their condition? We could possibly face the issue of not understanding what depression is, or we do not talk about it because it is a hard topic. It is important to learn about depression, talk about your mental state freely, understand why this concerns you, and most important of all, find ways to help our family.

Although a question a lot of people have is “What is depression? Is depression just another word for feeling sad?” The answer is no. Depression is a mental disorder also known as depressive disorder. It is a real sickness to the brain that is common and treatable if identified. Depression affects the mind by negatively impacting moods, lack of self-esteem, trouble focusing on simple tasks. The most important thing to consider is that these symptoms must last more than two weeks in order to be diagnosed with depression. These symptoms can be either mild or very severe. There are events that cause depression. What are some common causes of depression?

After learning about what depression does to us, we should learn about the causes of this mood disorder. Ernest Sternberg, MD stated that the causes of depression include abuse, the ptsd from the abuse could be a trigger. Any medications taken, major negative events, serious illness, substance abuse, and genetics are the leading causes of depressive disorder.  If these are the causes and effects of depression, then what are the major signs? How can you tell when someone is suffering from depression?

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Regardless of the common opinion there are many signs people can show when it comes to depression. These signs could be self-harm, withdrawal from family and friends, lack of interest in activities one used to be involved in, easily irritable, sleeps more than usual, lack of hygiene, a feeling of hopelessness, emptiness, or changes in appetite. They may be either eating too much or not. You do not need to have all these signs in order to suffer from depression. We may be able to notice when a family member is struggling, but do we actually take the time to learn about their battles in a supporting manner? Oftentimes the answer to this question, sadly, is no.

The time we take to educate ourselves on mental health within our families could make all the difference in the world.

Despite the wish we have that everyone could be happy, healthy, and communicate our feelings openly and freely, that is just not the case. Why is that? I interviewed a handful of students for this essay and one of the questions I asked them was “Are you able to freely communicate your feelings of sadness, frustration, or confusion to your family members?” Alex Gomez, one of my interviewees, said that he had a loving family that would support him. The only problem was that he was scared to tell them how he was feeling. Three out of the six teenagers I interviewed said something similar. They did not want to communicate their feelings because they were scared, or they would not be taken seriously.

After more research on this matter, the idea that you are too young to have health issues is wrong. Depression doesn’t care if you are male or female, it does not care if you are a teen, middle aged, or old. This mood disorder could happen to anyone at any time. By taking this seriously we can help people with and without these types of illnesses understand their situation a lot better. The first step to helping someone is to acknowledge that there is a real situation at hand, not an artificial one that you can ignore until it goes away. Let’s help our loved ones.

One way we can help our loved ones is to physically be there with them. The first steps we can take are to talk to them, let them know you support them fully, and make them feel comfortable enough to express their feelings. Make this a learning process for both of you. The more you learn together the stronger the bond between you will be. I interviewed the Mossyrock High School counselor Ted Johnson and asked him for tips on how to talk to someone with depression. Ted says, “The first thing that you need is to make sure you have is a connection with the person you are trying to help. Most people don’t want to open up to a stranger with the internal conflicts they are facing.” If their conditions worsen, now it is time to consider professional help.

By seeking professional help, you or your family member can receive the help you need. You can attend family group therapy sessions to talk to your family as an entirety. This form of therapy is helpful for families who need/want to get better together. By going through treatment with the support of a loved one they are more likely to complete the treatment and want to keep going. Having a good and understanding support system is important when setting on the path to recovery.

With all that is going on in the world, our family is what we have with us almost all the time.. One day when we have families of our own, I hope that we teach them more about mental health. It is important for us to learn about depression together, talk about your mental state freely, provide help for our family members, and accept them. By doing these things for our loved ones when they are struggling we can help them during the times they need it the most.

Link to resources:

What Is Depression?